ankoku temple

anyone else notice how foxes flock to the front of the ankoku temple?

if you’ve played through the game, you know that the ‘true’ rao is long since dead, nothing more than a skeleton tucked away in a secret passage to queen himiko’s palace.
in her place is ninetails, the kitsune follower of yami.

i never really thought about the foxes until my most recent playthrough, since now i always wander past ankoku temple feeling a little sad that we never really get to meet the real, genuine rao.
seeing the foxes made me realize how heavy of an influence ninetails has on the area and the fact they have a strong hold on this holy place.

the foxes could even be seen as a sort of foreshadowing, since even though they are not kitsune, they still bear the strongest connection to ninetails.
alongside the demon scroll hovering about, clearly undeterred by how close ankoku temple is alongside its bell, it is clear in other playthrough’s that this is no longer a safe, pure place away from demons.

Ankoku Temple

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Ankoku Temple, where Rao probably practiced Buddhist rites, sits high on a hill on the southern Ryoshima Coast. It’s very small and unassuming as far as Japanese temples go. So is the real one. (Or ones?)

I’m not sure which Ankoku Temple this one is supposed to be based off of. There’s one in Hiroshima Prefecture, which is the one on Wikipedia, but my guess is the one in Hida Prefecture, known for being Hida’s only national treasure and also for its octagonal revolving bookshelf. I believe it has a large scriptorium, but I’m having trouble verifying this. It could be the inspiration for the huge scriptorium where Rao works in Sei-an City, however. Both of these Ankoku Temples seem to have a decent amount of stairs, too.

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One of the most significant differences is in the characters used to spell the temples’ names. The real-life Ankokuji is written as 安国寺, meaning “Peaceful Country Temple”. But ankoku can also mean “darkness”, and I believe this is what Okami uses in Japanese–暗黒寺, literally “Dark Black Temple”, poetically “Temple of Darkness”. Creepy.

Sources:
the Flickr photo